It takes a village to raise a child

All of us have heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” many times. Some attribute the origin to the Igbo and Yoruba tribes in Africa, while others say it was passed down through North American Indigenous teachings. No matter what the origin, few would argue with the statement. Those of us who have children can readily attest to the fact that our children do not always take their parents at their word for everything. We have strong influence – we hope – but our children learn also from interaction with others and by observing and modeling other individuals who are part of their life circles and experiences.

As well, pedagogically it is well established that the very best way to encourage learning is through positive feedback and praise. Any good primary teacher knows that to get a whole class to follow the example of a particular student instantly, just say something like, “I really like the way that Sarah is placing her hands on her keyboard,” or “John, I really like the way you place your boots neatly in the hallway after recess.”

Over the last nine months, Doug Ford has taken aim at public education over and over again. He scrapped $100 million in critical school repairs when schools are literally crumbling across the province. He cut $25 million in education programming that was helping put young people and families on a good path. He made students unsafe by dragging the sex ed curriculum back to the previous century.

And now, Doug Ford is removing caps on class sizes, ripping $1 billion out of our education funding, and taking 10,000 teachers and educators out of our children’s classrooms. Readers may recall that a couple of weeks ago I stated that despite my lack of any degrees in sociology or economics, I can say with absolute certainty that a nation’s overall commitment to and delivery of public education is a primary determiner in nation building success. I truly fail to see the wisdom behind the Conservative’s education strategy. Ford’s plans have even captured the attention of Ontario’s youth. They see their path to success is about to take some treacherous curves. The kids themselves are raising their concerns, not only with their parents but also among their peers. This is a sure sign that this is truly important to them.

Back on April 4th, students all across the province organized a day of protest to express their views on the changes announced by the Ford government. When news of their plans were first heard, needless to say there were some stereotypical attitudes and comments about how our youth are lazy and ignorant of current events. Even Education Minister Lisa Thompson blew off the notion of a student protest saying that any students who want to have their voices “properly heard’ should participate in the governments online consultation. To this the student response was, “you mean the same way the government didn’t actually read the thousands of submissions they received on healthcare changes?” Ya, right …kids don’t pay attention to current events…

What happened next is truly amazing. Any parent or teacher knows that one of the best ways to get a youth to do something is to tell them that they can’t or that they are not experienced enough to handle something. Using the social media tools that are so familiar to them, student leaders came forward to rally well over 100,000 of their fellow students all of their own volition.

They rallied to protest cuts to teaching positions; increases to class sizes; loss of $851 million in funding; and mandatory participation in at least 4 online courses.

There were no actual reports of teachers nor unions putting them up to it or telling them what to do. I can tell you that from what my office has learned, the event went off without a hitch. There were no riots, no disrespectful comments and no inappropriate signage. All reports indicate that in the students walked out of class, listened to messages prepared by students themselves and, lots of positive encouragement for their peers. Then, like clockwork, they went right back to class.

In Elliot Lake, the students even marched from the school to my office to gather, then walked back without incident. These students demonstrated purpose, composure, and respect. Whether someone agreed or disagreed with the students’ message, you have to take your hat off to their responsible attitude and for perfectly modeling how a protest should be conducted.

But how did Doug Ford respond to the news of this event? Rather than use the event as a positive teaching moment and encouraging dialogue and modeling the proper way to resolve differences, Doug Ford chose to diminish their efforts and publicly disrespect them. Further, he went on to put the blame entirely on teachers and the teachers’ unions, referring to the leaders as thugs. “This is about the union bosses telling the teachers and the students what to do…. It’s absolutely shameful that they’re using our students as a bunch of pawns.”

Upon hearing Ford’s comments, Andrea Horwath responded by telling students, “Doug Ford underestimated you. Politicians often say that students are the future or the leaders of tomorrow. Not you. You’re the leaders of today. You’re the people that are fighting for what’s right, right now. You’re fighting for yourself, for your teachers, for your classmates, and for Ontario.”

Like I said above, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I hate to admit it, but yes, even Doug Ford did teach the students something – even if it is how notto handle challenges and how disrespecting those who don’t agree with you can backfire. Clearly our kids are not apathetic, lazy or uninformed. It seems that they have been paying attention all along as proven by the fact they demonstrated a model effective protest to make their voices heard.

My message to our students is, thank you for your phenomenal leadership, passion and determination. I want you to know that the NDP has your back, and won’t give up this fight. Ontario doesn’t belong to Doug Ford – it belongs to you. Your education doesn’t belong to Doug Ford — it belongs to you.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected]or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Mike Mantha